I Timothy 6 Part 2
New King James Version 9. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.
The Resultant Version 9. But they who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts such as sink men in extermination and destruction.
Yet there are those whose desire is to be rich. They are not satisfied with what they have in this world, and instead of willing to increase in Godliness, their will is to increase in possessions. Yet their will to be rich leads them astray into temptation, a snare, and many foolish and harmful lusts.
The “desire” here is the Greek word boulomai, which has to do with the will as it is related to the desires. A desire like this could and often does lead to a determination to carry out some kind of plan in order to bring the desire to fruition, but this word does not have to do with the decision to act, but only on the desire that can lead to it. “To be rich” could also mean to have abundance. In this context, it would refer to those who want far more than the necessary things they need and should have been content with, as Paul suggested in the previous verse.
The desire of such people will subject them to temptation, and is likely to cause them to fall into a snare. Indeed, men can be trapped by a desire for more than they need into many things. Some neglect their families in their quest to be rich. Many neglect their God while taking part in the same quest. Others are tempted and snared by a quick but dishonest way of trying to gain that wealth they desire. Therefore the Lord warns us that this desire for abundance can lead to these things.
The desire for riches can also lead into many foolish and harmful lusts. “Harmful” here simply means hurtful or causing damage. “Lusts” merely means a strong desire. The fact that it is possible for such a strong desire to be a positive thing can be demonstrated by the fact that the Lord said He had such a strong desire in Luke 22:15.
Luke 22:15. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
If the Lord had this very kind of strong desire to eat the Passover with His disciples before His work on the cross, then we certainly cannot say that such a desire is inherently wrong or sinful. Yet it is true that this word is often used of a strong desire for things forbidden. Certainly harmful desires are not a positive thing. The Lord is telling us here that the inappropriate desire for wealth will lead to other hurtful strong desires. Having given in to greed in this one thing, we are likely to give in to our improper desires in others as well.
Such strong desires drown men, Paul warns. To “drown” here can also mean to sink or to plunge under the water. Of course, if one did this in water, drowning would be the expected and likely result. The word “men” is the Greek anthropos, which, while technically male, really is the generic word for people. Then we have two words which basically mean “destruction.” The first is the Greek olethros, which has to do with ruin, destruction, and death. “Perdition” in English means complete and utter ruin, as when a man might lose his home, his family, his job, his health, and end up a homeless, drunken bum on the streets. Such a man would have come to perdition. Of course, those who have a relationship with God can never truly come to perdition no matter what happens to them. The Greek word for “perdition” here is apoleia, which is also often translated “destruction.” It can also mean to perish or to come to ruin. The teaching here is clear: foolish and harmful desires lead to drowning, destruction, and utter ruin. As Paul says elsewhere, the wages of sin is death. The second death is destruction, and the strong desires of wicked men lead them to that death.
New King James Version 10. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
The Resultant Version 10. For the love of money is the root of many evils, which some aspiring to have been seduced away from the faith, and have pierced themselves with many pangs.
In Greek this reads, “For a root of all bad things is the love of silver.” “Silver” here is put for all kinds of money, for money typically was made out of real metal coinage in that day, like silver. This is not saying that everything depraved or bad in nature comes from the root of the love of money, but it is saying that all kinds of bad things find their root in the love of money, and this is true. The desire for wealth can lead to lies, fraud, theft, murder, marital unfaithfulness, and a host of other things. Indeed, all kinds of bad behaviors can find their root in the love of money.
Moreover, he points out that for the love of money some have strayed from the faith. Of course, if it leads to all these other bad things, it can lead to unfaithfulness to God as well. He says they have done this in their greediness, but the word here just means in their desire. The word was already used in I Timothy 3:1 for desiring the overwatch, and it is likewise used in Hebrews 11:16 for those who desire a better country, that is, an heavenly. Since both other times this word means a good desire, translating it “greediness” does not seem quite right. It just means that their desire for wealth has caused them to stray from the faith.
The love of money has also caused some to pierce themselves through with many sorrows. Usually we human beings try to do things to help and benefit ourselves. Yet a greedy desire for wealth can lead some to pierce their own persons and lives with sorrow in an attempt to achieve it. That is why the Lord recommends to us the benefits of contentment and the dangers of a desire for abundance.
New King James Version 11. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.
The Resultant Version 11. But you, O man of God, you flee these things, and you pursue after righteousness, true worship, faith, love, endurance, meekness.
Paul now speaks directly to Timothy as a man of God, but this statement might well be that of God to all people of God, even those living in our own day. He calls on us to flee the love of money and the bad things and sorrows to which it leads. Instead, the man of God should diligently pursue other things, like righteousness. The word here is dikaiosune, which is rightly translated “righteousness,” which means right or just living. Our righteousness that we should follow after is not simply what we have earned or deserve, but we seek imputed righteousness, that righteousness that Philippians 3:9 speaks of so clearly (in The Resultant Version).
9. And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness which is after the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, that righteousness which is of God by faith,
“Godliness” is eusebeia, as we had it in verses 3, 5, and 6, and has to do with true worship. Many in our day worship God according to their own will, or the dictates and traditions of whatever church they happen to have identified themselves with. We should not allow our worship to be so randomly determined, but should see to it that we worship in the true way that God desires of His people today, as is recorded in epistles such as this one written after the great dispensational dividing line of Acts 28:28.
“Faith” is the typical word the Bible uses for faith, pistis. We display faith when we hear the Word of God, and respond according to what we have heard. It is not just mental assent to certain Biblical claims, but it is living our lives in subjection to what God has said, proving that we not only hold it to be true, but we stake our lives on it through faith.
“Love” is the Greek word agape, a word which is rare in Greek, but which is common with God in His Word. Agape speaks of God’s kind of self-sacrificing love, a love that causes the lover to be willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of the person or thing loved.
“Patience” is the Greek hupomone. It has to do with endurance through suffering and trials. It may be contrasted to the Greek word makrothumia, which has to do with endurance with people and circumstances. If one failed to have hupomone, the result would be giving in to discouragement and despair. If one failed to have makrothumia, he would blow his top and become enraged. In this passage, Paul is calling on the person of God to diligently pursue hupomone or patience with suffering and trials.
Finally, he mentions “gentleness” or “meekness.” The idea of “meek” is not “weak,” as many seem to think, but rather has to do with submissiveness. Of course, this does not mean that we are submissive towards those who would teach us false doctrine and ungodly practice, as Timothy has been warned about in this book. Rather, it is submitting meekly first of all to God, and then to others in the Lord as Paul suggests is right in places like Ephesians 5:21-6:9. These are the things that the man of God is to diligently pursue.
New King James Version 12. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
The Resultant Version 12. Be contending the noble contest of the faith! Lay hold of the eonian life in respect to which you were positioned and have confessed the noble confession in the sight of many witnesses.
Now Paul charges Timothy to fight the good fight of faith. This word “fight” can also have to do with a battle, a contest, a struggle, or even a trial. It is the word agonizomai, similar to our word agony, and which should clearly bring home the idea of the struggle to us. To live as a man of faith is not an easy task, and it may require much practice and extreme effort, even as it would for one struggling to win some athletic contest. Yet the true man of God will not shy away from the fight just because of the agony of the struggle.
The word “faith” is again the word pistis, which means faith or belief. To believe God in a world wherein He is silent is a difficult thing to do, and to put all that He has said into practice in our lives is a struggle of swimming against the stream of the flow of the world around us. Our Lord wishes us to make a good struggle of it. His Word is the standard, and the course is set out before us. Let us make a good effort to come to the end of the contest a winner.
Then, he urges Timothy to lay hold on eternal life. What then is the eternal life he speaks of? The word for “eternal” is the Greek aionios, which we could English by making it “eonian.” If we would define eonian, we might think of a Hebrew farmer whose farm is by a river. He is living on his family farm, which belonged to his father before him and his father before him, and which he hopes will someday belong to his son after him and his son after him on perpetually. Through all the generations of his ancestors, that river has flowed, and through all the generations of his descendants it will continue to flow. That river is eonian.
The life we live now is not that way. Our life starts out with a rush. At first, parents mark epochs in the lives of their young children in weeks, then in months, and then in years. At first, a child realizes that the older he gets, the bigger he gets, the smarter he gets, the more privileges he is trusted with, and so forth. Yet there comes a time once that child has become an adult that it starts to dawn on him that a year older no longer means a year bigger or smarter or better. Instead, another year may mean another gray hair (or fewer hairs), another wrinkle, another ache or pain, another thing he cannot do like he used to be able to do. And that man will now start to realize that this life of his that began with such a rush is starting to trickle out and starting to trickle down. Eventually, death overtakes us all, and our lives cease to flow. Eonian life, however, is not this way. Eonian life does not trickle out. Eonian life does not trickle down. Eonian life is a life that flows on and on forever.
Yet going back to our Hebrew farmer by the river, if you asked that farmer what that river means to him and his farm, he would not just tell you that it means something that lasts forever. He would tell you that it means water for his crops, and water for his family, and water for his livestock. He drinks from that water, he bathes in that water, the women wash their clothes in that water, the children play in that water and splash it on each other. That river means life to the farmer, not just something that flows on and on forever.
In the same way, eonian life means more than just a life that lasts forever. I suppose if I could increase my lifespan in this world, I would be happy to do it. If I could live twenty years in my forties and twenty years in my fifties and so forth, doubling the years I have left, I would be happy to do it. If I could triple them even, I might well not mind. Yet I cannot help but think that if I lived long enough in this world, I would just start to get tired of it. All the suffering and all the evil and all the brokenness and corruption of this world would start to become a weariness. If I had to live forever in this world, even if I could do it in a young, healthy body, I think I would get to the point where I would say of my years, in the words of Ecclesiastes 12:1, “I have no pleasure in them.” Yet eonian life is not that way. Eonian life is not only a life that flows on and on forever, but it is also a life that flows with every good thing from the hand of God that would make life forever worth living. Eonian life is a life you would want to live forever. It is the outflowing life of God.
Timothy is called to lay hold on eonian life. This might seem a strange thing to us, for we believe eternal life to be a gift, as indeed it is, as Romans 6:23 declares:
23. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
How one is to lay hold on this gift has already been declared by Paul clearly in I Timothy back in 1:16.
16. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
So eonian life is a gift that is given when one believes on Jesus Christ. Yet surely Timothy had believed in Jesus Christ already, probably two decades before Paul wrote this book to him. How then can Paul urge him to lay hold on that life now, so long after he had already done so? Clearly Paul cannot mean the length of eonian life, for Timothy was as we are: still in a sinful, dying body that will not live outflowingly. Therefore what God wants him to lay hold of must be the quality of that life, not its duration. This makes perfect sense, for Christ said in His prayer to the Father in John 17:3:
3. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Thus this, to know God, even to know Jesus Christ whom He has sent, is eternal life. This is what makes eonian life the wonderful thing that it is. It is not the chance to live in paradise. It is not the peaceful conditions, the perfect health, the material blessings, the reunions with loved ones, or anything else that makes eonian life so outflowingly good that you could gladly live it forever. No, it is knowing God that makes that great life what it is. It is knowing Jesus Christ that makes that life so wonderful that you could live it forever and never tire of it or lose interest in going on from year to year. To know God is eonian life, and that is what we can lay hold on now. We do not need to wait until our future lives to grasp hold of this great aspect of eternal life. We can get to know God now, and therefore we can lay hold on eternal life.
Moreover, it is not just that we can do this, but we were called to do this, as Timothy was. He had confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses regarding this, and now Paul calls on him to live as he confessed. The word “confessed” is the Greek homologeo, from the Greek homo which means the same and logeo which speaks of expression. Timothy had spoken the same thing, not as other men or as the world speaks, but rather as God speaks. Timothy had agreed with this confession in the presence of many witnesses. Now, he needed to live according to his words, and lay hold on that to which God called him.
New King James Version 13. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate,
The Resultant Version 13. I give you charge in the sight of God, Who gives vitality to all of these, even Christ Jesus Who witnessed before Pontius Pilate the good confession,
Now Paul gives Timothy a charge in the sight of God, Who gives life to all things. Yet the phrase “all things” is the Greek phrase ta panta, which does not mean “all things,” but translates literally to “the all.” Yet this has no meaning, and it is clear that this phrase is an idiom; that is, a phrase whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meaning of its component words. The phrase “cool as a cucumber” would be an example. In this case, the meaning of the Greek idiom becomes clear in Colossians 3:8.
8. But now you also put off all these: anger, fury, malice, slander, obscenity out of your mouth.
Here, ta panta is translated by “all these,” and it is clear that “all things” could not possibly be the meaning. Instead, the idiomatic phrase “the all” was used in Greek to mean “all this” or “all these,” referring to certain, specific things mentioned in the context. In this case, the things mentioned precede this verse: things like the good fight of faith, eternal life, righteousness, true worship, faith, love, endurance, and meekness, which we had considered in the verses leading up to this one.
Yet the question might then arise as to how God gives life to things like these? For surely these things are concepts, not living beings. Does it not make more sense to just translate it the way the New King James Version did? This might make sense, but that does not mean it represents well what God was trying to convey by this verse. The reality is that God does give life to and vivify things like these we have listed. Mr. Sellers translates it that He gives vitality to all of these things. Without the vitality that comes from God, it is doubtful that we could fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, or live our lives expressing the character, attitudes, and fruits the Lord has been telling us to live. God gives life to such behavior and activities, and that is why we can live in them. Without His life-giving power, we would not have the power to order our behavior in the way He desires and intends us to do.
Paul also charges Timothy before Christ Jesus, Who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate. Paul has already acknowledged that Timothy confessed a good confession, and now he reminds him that Christ Jesus had done so first, even in the most trying of circumstances when He stood before the judgment seat of Pontius Pilate to determine if He would live or die. If Christ witnessed to the good confession, then we certainly should follow His example and do the same, even in the difficult situations we may face.
New King James Version 14. that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing,
The Resultant Version 14. That you safeguard this precept without spot, irreprehensible, until the blazing forth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is what Paul charges Timothy to do in the sight of God even Christ Jesus. He is to safeguard this precept without spot. He is to attend carefully to following this precept spotlessly. The “precept,” since it is singular, probably refers to the one he just mentioned in verse 12: to fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life. In doing this, he is to seek to be irreprehensible, so that no censure or reproach could rightfully be laid against him. This is the good way for any follower of Christ to fight the good fight of faith. We need to do so spotlessly and without reproach. Our love for God motivates us to live this kind of lifestyle. It is not a fear of the commands of God but a love for the person of God that drives us to fight in the manner we are charged to fight.
Timothy is to live this way until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. The word for “appearing” here is epiphaneia. The Greek word phaneia means a “shining forth,” and the prefix epi in front accelerates it to a “blazing forth.” The Greeks would often use this word for a favorable intervention. It could refer to a ship lost in a storm at sea, when finally the clouds break and the stars appear by which the ship may discover its location and plot a course to save itself. Those stars blazed forth in a favorable intervention. It was commonly used by the Greeks to speak of a favorable intervention of the gods. Paul here is looking forward to the next great event on the prophetic calendar after this dispensation of grace in which we live runs its course. He is anticipating the blazing forth in a favorable intervention towards this world of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is truly what this world needs. Lost in darkness, only the favorable intervention of God can ever save our world from the dark and destructive course it has set for itself ever since our first parents Adam and Eve decided to go Satan’s way rather than God’s way. This favorable intervention will come in the day when God acts to bring His kingdom to earth at last, when He will judge the world in righteousness and rule over the nations on the earth. The way that kingdom starts is by Jesus Christ blazing forth on behalf of this world. He died to buy this world back from captivity to Satan and his forces. Now, all that we are waiting for is for Him to intervene on the world’s behalf and bring it back to Himself. When that day comes, our work in this fallen world will be complete and then our glorious labor in His great kingdom will commence. Until then, we live in the enemy’s camp, but while we live here we must fight the good fight of faith.